XFL draft 2023: AJ McCarron, Ben DiNucci headline 15 QBs taken as league prepares for relaunch

The XFL held day one of its draft today in Las Vegas, which was essentially just the announcement of the initial 15 quarterbacks and where they will be playing this upcoming winter/spring.

Seven of the eight teams walked away today with two QBs on their depth chart, with the DC Defenders being the only team with a single QB on the roster. It’s a good combination of former NFL veterans to guys from the 2022 NFL Draft class.

Teams will be allowed to draft other QBs in the remaining days of the draft, which ends Thursday. And there will be a supplemental draft held in January, where teams could continue to add depth and talent to not only the QB room, but to the rest of the roster as well.

Let’s get familiar with the first 15 quarterbacks of the XFL.

Arlington Renegades

QB Drew Plitt

  • Draft class: 2022
  • College: Ball State
  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 215

Plitt is someone who understands where to go with the football. He’s quick to diagnose the most favorable matchup and deliver the ball quickly. I thought he showed marked improvement as a three-year starter, growing into a more confident passer. He’s got very good movement skills, good fundamentals and throws well on the move.

QB Kyle Sloter

  • Draft class: 2017
  • College: Northern Colorado
  • Height: 6-5
  • Weight: 218

Sloter’s story has been well documented. He spent time, or has set foot in, virtually every NFL team’s building. He was a preseason fan favorite of both the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos, performing well during preseason games. But it was this past spring in the USFL where he really came into his own as a QB. Sloter was a first-round pick of the New Orleans Breakers and led them to the USFL playoffs. As one of the top passers in the USFL, Sloter threw for nearly 1,800 yards and nine touchdowns. Staying healthy is going to be the key for him, as well as avoiding costly turnovers, which seemed to come in bunches down the stretch of the Breakers season.

DC Defenders

QB Eric Dungey

  • Draft class: 2019
  • College: Syracuse
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 228

Dungey burst onto the scene at Syracuse as a true freshman back in 2015, dazzling fans with his dual-threat capabilities. But, he was injured early in that season with a concussion, which would become a common theme throughout his college football playing career. I remember seeing him at New York Giants camp back in 2019, getting reps at both QB and TE. So clearly the athleticism is still there. You wonder if coach Reggie Barlow envisions him as a Taysom Hill-type for his offense.

Houston Roughnecks

QB Kaleb Eleby

  • Draft class: 2022
  • College: Western Michigan
  • Height: 6-1
  • Weight: 210

Eleby reminds me a lot of Dak Prescott. He’s got the top-notch accuracy and placement you look for, and it’s one of the most consistent elements of his game. He’s a strong RPO player who throws well on the move. He was a surprise early entry in the 2022 NFL Draft, but only had a cup of coffee with the Seattle Seahawks. Because he was just a junior, there is still a lot of upside left within his game. I had him graded as my No. 2 QB in the 2022 class behind Malik Willis. Go back and watch his game against the Pitt Panthers last season, and you’ll see how much he outplayed current Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Kenny Pickett. Coach Wade Phillips got himself a gem in Eleby.

QB Brandon Silvers

  • Draft class: 2018
  • College: Troy
  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 218

Silvers brings a ton of professional experience to the table, having had stints in the Alliance of American Football, the NFL, XFL 2020 and The Spring League. He was a terrific passer coming out of Troy and an underrated athlete as well. At 28 years old, you hope he can finally get some career stability and continue to grow his game moving forward. He was excellent as the Conquerors QB in The Spring League back in 2021, leading the league in passing.

Vegas Vipers

QB Jalen McClendon

  • Draft class: 2019
  • College: Baylor
  • Height: 6-5
  • Weight: 220

McClendon was a former North Carolina State QB who transferred to Baylor in 2018 as a graduate. Although he played in a lot of games in the 2018 season, he split time in doing so. He was able to flash enough to earn an invite to the 2019 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and that’s where you got to see him in a controlled environment, which allowed his true potential to be shown. He’s got top-tier athleticism and is a plus-one in the run game. He just needs more reps, and that’ll be exactly what he’ll get with the Vipers.

QB Luis Perez

  • Draft class: 2018
  • College: Texas A&M-Commerce
  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 220

Perez is no stranger to spring leagues, having played in all of them since coming out of college as a Division II national champion at Texas A&M-Commerce. He logged starts in the AAF, XFL 2020, The Spring League and most recently, led the New Jersey Generals of the USFL to the playoffs. This past season was a unique one for him, as he was in a QB platoon system with the Generals and performed rather well. He’s gotten opportunities in the NFL, most recently with the Los Angeles Rams — the team he signed with right out of college — but has never stuck. He’s a good guy to have on the roster because of his leadership and ability to step into the game on short notice and succeed.

Orlando Guardians

QB Deondre Francois

  • College: Hampton
  • Height: 6-1
  • Weight: 210

Before the pandemic shut everything down, I was able to get to the 2020 College Gridiron Showcase and got a great glimpse of former Florida State QB Deondre Francois. He’s got elite level toughness, dating back to his time with the Seminoles. Francois will stand in the pocket, sometimes to a fault, and take a shot. He plays the ‘short game’ and play-action passing game rather well. He’s got the escapability to thrive in today’s game and displays all of the footwork, throwing mechanics and ability to pass on the move that you expect out of the position. An opportunity like this one in the XFL is tailor-made for a guy like Francois to take advantage of.

QB Quinten Dormady

  • Draft class: 2020
  • College: Central Michigan
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 219

Dormady, like many guys in the XFL or any spring league, is just looking for a steady and stable place to call home. He was a well-traveled college football player, making stops at three different programs. He was able to get settled in at Central Michigan and did rather well, leading the Chippewas to a Mid-American Conference title and a bowl game.

San Antonio Brahmas

QB Jawon Pass

  • Draft class: 2022
  • College: Prairie View A&M
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 230

Pass was the long-time Louisville QB who had the unfortunate task of following Lamar Jackson. He ended up transferring to Prairie View A&M, where he was able to play some of the most consistent ball of his collegiate career. He has a legit howitzer for an arm and can definitely stretch the field with it. The deep ball accuracy is arguably his best trait. He also has an underrated ability as a runner. He scored on a 64-yard QB draw against Arkansas-Pine Bluff last season that showed his potential upside in that regard. But make no mistakes about it, he’s a classic, dropback passer in the mold of former Ohio State QB Cardale Jones.

QB Anthony Russo

  • Draft class: 2022
  • College: Michigan State
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 230

Clearly Brahmas coach Hines Ward has a type at the position! Russo is another tall, classic dropback passer like Pass. The former Spartan has A+ touch on his throws going down the sidelines and can really lay throws in that Cover-2 hole in between the corner and safety. He doesn’t shy away from tough throws and has a very “no risk it, no biscuit” type of mentality as a passer. You like that ability to have short memory at the position; that alone will take a player very far as a professional.

St. Louis Battlehawks

QB Ryan Willis

  • Draft class: 2020
  • College: Virginia Tech
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 221

Ryan Willis was The Spring League MVP in 2021, leading his team, the Linemen, to The Spring League title. He then spent the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears. I thought he would have latched on with the USFL in the spring, but alas he ends up with the Battlehawks. Willis throws a very catchable ball, showing a knack for being able to attack voids in zone defenses extremely well. Going back to his collegiate days at Virginia Tech, he was used in the QB run game. While he’s not Josh Allen, he does have a high level of ability in the zone-read/RPO type of offense.

QB AJ McCarron

  • Draft class: 2014
  • College: Alabama
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 220

Interesting that McCarron, at 32 years old, is giving the XFL a shot; or interesting that the XFL is giving McCarron a shot. He’s a long-time NFL’er who has played some quality snaps in the NFL. To me, this seems like a stability type move for coach Anthony Becht, and one that says they are not done adding to the room in subsequent days.

Seattle Sea Dragons

QB Ben DiNucci

  • Draft class: 2020
  • College: James Madison
  • Height: 6-2
  • Weight: 205

DiNucci was a long-time preseason fan favorite for the Dallas Cowboys, playing hard during the summer and finding himself on and off the Cowboys practice squad. This past preseason, he lost the battle with Cooper Rush, so this is an opportunity to put together a full season of tape, hoping to enhance his chances to bounce back to the NFL or just remain in Seattle and be a star for the Sea Dragons . I fully expected DiNucci to ingratiate himself with the Sea Dragon fan base, creating the same cult-like following he had in Dallas. The way he plays the game is one that you appreciate, because he will never stop battling.

QB Steven Montez

  • Draft class: 2020
  • College: Colorado
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 240

Montez had one of the strongest arms in the 2020 draft class and could legitimately throw a ball through a keyhole. For a 240-pound QB, he moves rather well and could be an asset in the QB-run game. Consistency, as with a lot of players in this league, is where you want to see him stabilize. Getting this opportunity to compete for a job should bring out the best in Montez, who spent time with the Washington Commanders and Detroit Lions from 2020-21.

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